Firstly I want to expand the time period covered by the title of this article by rewinding slightly to start at the beginning of December. Friday 6th December was my last day at work and I started chemotherapy the following Monday.
Very early in this time period I found that two words struck fear in the hearts of many people I know: Cancer and Jesus. Saying either was a guaranteed way of seeing someone enter a state of panic, trying to change the subject. Using both by telling them that I was trusting Jesus to heal me intensified their desire to avoid what I was saying.
Another thing learned was how the term “believer” is misapplied to many professing Christians. They don’t seem to have an understanding of what it means to believe or to have faith. At least according to biblical definitions that state belief/faith are required when we pray, to guarantee that we receive what we pray for.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1)
A surprising number don’t have any confidence that they will receive what they ask for in prayer, showing a disregard of Jesus’ promise.
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matt 21)
I have been very grateful for the many people who promised to pray when I made the cancer diagnosis known. But I have to wonder what people were actually praying, considering that many Christians don’t understand that it IS God’s will to heal. Too often they compromise their prayer with the tag “if it be Your will” when praying regarding healing. Including that phrase may add an appearance of humility and submission to the prayer, but in reality it displays a lack of knowledge of God’s revealed will and undermines the effectiveness of their prayer.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5)
Motivated by that promise I made it my goal to see if scripture revealed God’s will regarding the health and healing of His people. I thought it could take a lot of time to find a definitive answer – if there was one. There would be a lot of scripture to work through.
In reality it took only a day or two to find a very clear answer. And that was even before I realised the blatantly obvious, that Jesus (who ONLY did the Father’s will) healed everyone who came to Him or was taken to Him. He also went out of His way to heal a few who didn’t seek Him out. NEVER was anyone turned away without healing when approached by someone in need.
This is NOT hidden in scripture. It is open and clear.
And that brings me to another thing I’ve learned (or been reminded of recently) and that is the widespread influence of cessationist theology; even among those who insist they believe in the ongoing validity of Spiritual gifts and the miraculous. Cessationist influence has caused even pentecostal believers to dilute their expectation of signs confirming the gospel. Spirit-filled “believers” are frequently allowing themselves to be influenced by cessationist, so-called, “discernment ministries“.
These people who are allegedly exposing heretical teachings and practices among charismatic groups are often targeting anything that doesn’t conform to their narrow, unbiblical view that Spiritual gifts and signs and wonders have been abandoned by God. No discernment is needed when a broad cessationist brush is applied to dis-empower the gospel and the church commissioned to preach it.
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. (Mark 16)
in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God … I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Rom 15)
…my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (1 Cor 2)
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1)
While these cessationist “discernment” ministries are influencing many to be suspicious of countless preachers, churches and charismatic experiences (some deservedly 1) few ever consider that the “discernment” ministers have no less questionable beliefs than the worst of the people they are “exposing”.
What could be worse than a ministry based on denying the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit – even attributing His work to Satan (because according to their beliefs, God has withdrawn the Spirit’s gifts therefore any expression of supernatural gifts has to be Satanic).
But on a more positive note. While my studies and discoveries so far this year have challenged (even broken) some friendships, I thank God for new friends that He has brought into my life. Their encouragement, prayer and support has been a blessing.
1 A shotgun blast may hit an appropriate target, but in doing so has much more likelihood of hitting innocent bystanders. That is the weakness and danger of lazy, broad-brush condemnations being used instead of genuine discernment, motivated by a love of the truth.